26 September 2012

My Time Machine: The Peacock Caffe'

The Peacock Caffe, NYC, 1958,  Nick DeWolf photographs used with permission

Esquire's post Saturday featured a photograph taken at The Peacock Caffe' (1946-2000) in Greenwich Village. A reader commented that the owner kept that same Esquire photo at the cash register.  I did some research and discover the Peacock closed in 2000. 

I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know why I came.  I hope to connect to a place. To these people in the photographs.  Usually, what was, is now; TD bank, Starbucks, Duane Reade. You wish the walls could talk.  But just to see the place is amazing.  I'm in the greatest city in the world with every sort of museum, store, restaurant, park, you name it....but I go to places that aren't there anymore.

I stand at 24 Greenwich Street.  Where these people stood 54 years ago.  To join them or, at least be close to them, and to know they were here. NYC movie locations are about famous people pretending.  The Peacock, that night back in 1958, was about ordinary people living.


M.Lane said...

Just superb. I like to go to NYC addresses of the places I wish I had been to back then for the same reason.


Anonymous said...

De Wolf sneaks hip-level shots of patrons with a 2-1/4 Rolleiflex, and there's your time machine.

The shot with the guy lighting his cigarette while his companion chats with her hand on her hip is just excellent.

A cafe could never get away with that decor today. Or could it? Point is, all that Baroque stuff is so uncool it's cool.

But the storefront current occupant, an eye opener. By way of stating the obvious, check out all those government warnings posted at the entrance. Signs of the times. Next warning poster: super-sized drinks.


Anonymous said...

Those pics taken in 1958 are great but guess what? The place never changed. The same chairs, decor, espresso machine! The food was pretty good too. I particularly remember the Tortellini in Broda. Ahh, memories. Thanks.

ELS said...

"I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know why I came."
Wish I'd said that, story of my life. Fab post, a boy after my own uber-nostalgic heart. Oh, and Under The Volcano - one of the best books ever.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous Pics.

It's the same story everywhere. The old cafes and bars are shuttered and become banks and drug stores. The minute the floor starts creaking in a brownstone a developer buys it, tears it down, builds condos that are modern and ugly. Everyone complains.

It seems the only lesson we learn is that we never learn our lesson.

Alice Olive said...

I love these images. He's chosen some great angles.

Stephen B said...

Check out the new Exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Supposed to be quite extensive.

RulingPart said...

Not a New Yorker, so I'd never heard of the place. I thought those pictures were artsy modern day shots. I knew something was up by #3, was fairly certain by #4, and confirmed it with #5. That just doesn't exist anymore. What a pity.


Akua Lezli Hope said...

I LOVED the Peacock Caffe and frequented it from about 1978-1996 but in the fifties it was in another location.

tintin said...

Akua- Sorry about that but you are right. These pics were taken at 149 W 4th St when the Peacock was a branch of another coffee house at 158 W 58th which is now a bar. See this link and accept my apologies http://new-york-city.yodelout.com/greenwich-village/

Anonymous said...

Best chocolate rum cake in the city

Anonymous said...

My wife and I went there in the 80's and early 90's and loved it so much. We became friendly with the older woman who was the waitress who told us her husband used to be the owner. She seemed to run the place and the kitchen as well. Her personality was so warm and loving - she became a mom/grandma to us and spoiled us whenever we went, recommending what to eat - that was suitable to our young couple's budget. It was quiet, unpretentious and the food was excellent. Pretty wrought iron decor, chairs with similar curlicuing designs like the interior, which made you feel like you were in an outdoor cafe in a small and intimate piazza. We usually ordered a salad, or Italian antipastos cold or hot, a glass of wine and loved the best granita di cafe this side of Rome. I remember that most of the music playing in the background softly was orchestrated opera hits. How sad that places like this disappear. And when you find such a place today, they can become touristy, but it may be because people crave the real things that aren't chains.

Sisko241 said...

Anonymous (1/4/15) said: "And when you find such a place today, they can become touristy, but it may be because people crave the real things that aren't chains."

That is SO true. I ate there while attempting NYU graduate school. It was one of the nicest, homey places to sit, eat and read. Now where do you go to do the same thing? Don't anyone suggest Starbucks. They're not even up to being in the same league.

Linda & Bob Gordon said...

I, and then we, frequented the Peacock Caffe from the mid-1960s until late 1972, when we moved out of state. After that we made a once-a-year pilgrimmage, and it was a very special place through our courtship, early years of marriage, and finally with daughters in tow. In the 4th Street days we used to eat shish-kebob and some other meat dishes. After the Caffe moved and lightened its menu, we remember the green bean salad, almond drinks, a few lovely desserts, but ALWAYS and best of all the Venetian Chocolate Rum Delight. [Does anyone out there have a recipe for that rum cake??] We remember the dark paintings and opera music, Arturo behind the espresso machine, and Virginia serving us through all those decades. To this day we mourn that we "can't go home again".

felliniesque said...

My Godfather, Rosario Murabito was the founder of the Peacock. It was at 149 West 4th St. The Peacock that was on Greenwich Ave bore the name and had all the marvelous furnishings from the original, but had new owners.Below is what is at original location now:
I remember that the furnishings stayed when it became a pub. Incidentally, it was upstairs there on Greenwich, so no need to nostalge at ground level. My family traveled regularly to Italy and even lived there briefly. I avoid Starbucks fastidiously as the coffee is awful, but I used to kid my family about why it didn't occur to us to bring Italian coffee to the States. God forbid we do something that actually MAKES money! We were in the arts, suffice it to say!

Unknown said...

The original address was 149 West Fourth St. Greenwich village. I buy sell American history for a living. Just came across original menu.
Open daily 4 pm to 1 am
Sunday 3 pm to midnight